NHS 75 anniversary: 'Striking was a hard decision to make, but I have to advocate for my patients'

75 years of the NHS and never has this great British institution been under so much pressure.

While many celebrate this milestone, others say it's a service on its knees.

In December 2022, nurses took to the picket lines for the first time in the history of the NHS in a series of strikes in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Ambulance workers and other health workers also went on strike in the weeks to follow.

The first mass walkout of nurses in history took place in mid December. Credit: ITV News

The RCN union estimates their pay has fallen by around a fifth in since 2010.

Nurse Carmel O'Boyle has been striking with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who rejected the governments latest pay offer in May.

In June, nurses failed to vote in sufficient numbers for further strike action with an overall turnout of just over 43% – just 7% away from the 50% required by 2016 trade union laws for them to strike.

Ms O'Boyle said she didn't want to strike, but she felt it was something she had to do.

"I had to advocate for my patients in that way and to take the message to government that we can't go on like this any longer," the RCN North West Chair said.

"There won't be an NHS in a few years if we carry on like we are.''

  • RCN Chair Carmel O'Boyle's hope for the future of the NHS

Ms O'Boyle said when she first started working in the NHS almost 20 years ago, staff had "more time to spend with patients and more time to give the care that we wanted to".

"Whereas now, there's not enough of us. It's a heartbreaking situation to be in because everybody in healthcare wants to give the patients the best care they can and the very best that they deserve and we're struggling with that. We definitely need more of us.''

Some union health workers in the North West who have been striking have said patient safety is being put at risk due to low staffing levels.

They have also said that an attempt to clear the care backlog, made worse by COVID, has led to many staff saying they are 'overworked' with many feeling 'burnt out'.

Junior doctors are staging the largest walkout in the history of the NHS - a five-day strike towards the end of July. Credit: ITV News

In March this year, junior doctors began the first in a wave of strikes, heaping further disruption on the health service.

Junior Doctor Matt Church said the government are not listening. He also said he feels undervalued.

He said: "I can't see myself working for the NHS longterm if things continue like this and I would be happy to look for opportunities abroad if that's needed and that is a very sad thing to say, especially since I have family and friends here.

"It's just really difficult to provide a service for the NHS that is a great institution and a great cause, but we're not feeling valued and pay is definitely a problem."

Almost 650,000 appointments and operations have been postponed because of the strikes in England.

As the NHS prepares for the largest doctors' strike in its history, Matt thinks it is difficult to see how it will survive.

He continued: "I think looking at all of the metrics of the waiting lists and the targets being missed in A&E and when I have been to A&E corridors and seeing the amount of patients there, it's very difficult to hand on heart say it will be here in 75 years, but I certainly hope it will."

648,000 appointments, procedures and operations have been postponed as a result of the strikes in England. Credit: ITV News

Junior doctors are planning to stage the largest walkout in the history of the NHS - a five -day strike from 13 to 18 July.

Consultants, who are the most senior doctors in the NHS, are planning to stage industrial action for 48 hours on 20 to 21 July.

Some unions have settled the matter with ministers after the NHS Staff Council voted to accept the Government's revised pay offer for staff of the Agenda for Change contract - including paramedics, nurses and physiotherapists.

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